Thom Gunn’s In the Tank - A Manifestation of the Human Consciousness

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Thom Gunn’s In the Tank - A Manifestation of the Human Consciousness

A thorough analysis of subject material and literary style exhibits the complexity of establishing a strong thematic base, which does not deter from the ebb and flow of a poetic medium . In Thom Gunn’s In the Tank, a felon is overwhelmed by emotion at the state of his existence in prison. In what appears to be a moment’s reflection, Thom Gunn’s narrator in In the Tank reveals an abundance of sentiment pertaining to his environment. From meticulous description of the prison environment, to the exasperated feeling of loneliness and dejection, Gunn lures an audience into a seeming first-hand account of prison-life.

However, a broader subject matter lay hidden in
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Thus being established, literary devices are used in the description of the ‘tank.’

The second stanza of Tank begins with a course of alliteration that is both an enlightening and confusing commentary on the poem. “The cell was clean and cornered, and contained” (line 5). Upon a visual appreciation of the line, “c” is repeated four times. However, when the line is spoken out loud, “cell” is pronounced with a soft ‘se’ while “clean and cornered, and contained” are pronounced with a hard ‘k’ sound. Gunn’s use of adjectives to describe the “man’s” surroundings are proof of the figurative difference between a “cell” and a “tank.” A “cell” is what the institution gives an inmate. It is exactly what Gunn has described it as: “clean and cornered, and contained.” A “tank,” relatively speaking, is a continuation of the cell, beyond what the institution issues. The word “cell” acts as a façade for the true definition of the word (the “clean and cornered and contained” aspect of the cell). The “cell,” in turn, is a part of the inmate’s consciousness through exposure and constant scrutiny of surroundings and becomes ‘the tank.’ The use of the past tense indicates the flow of events from a “cell” to a “tank.” “The cell was clean and cornered and contained.” Granted, the “cell” was all these, but what has the ‘tank’ become? After all, the environment is described as “the felon’s tank” in line one. Again, an insinuation of

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